Hair relaxers are widely used. Studies suggest up to 90% of Black and Brown women have used hair relaxers and straighteners. Hair relaxers contain a wide range of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that interfere with the normal activity of the endocrine system. Exposure to hair relaxers usually begins in a woman’s formative childhood years and continues through adolescence and into adulthood. This prolonged use enhances susceptibility to debilitating conditions resulting from exposure to EDCs. Natural and synthetic EDCs, which are present in hair products under the guise of “fragrance” and “perfumes,” are used to make fragrances and colors last longer and to make hair more flexible after product is applied, among other uses.
Uterine cancer is associated with phthalate metabolites found in hair care products. The incidence of uterine cancer in Black women is twice that of white women. In addition, Black women with uterine cancer carry a poorer prognosis as compared to white women. Though death rates from other cancers in women have declined in recent years, death rates for uterine cancer have increased by more than 100% in the last 20 years. A groundbreaking study recently found that women who use chemical hair straightening or relaxing products have a higher risk contracting uterine cancer. The study found that an estimated 1.64% of women who never used chemical hair straighteners or relaxers would go on to develop uterine cancer by the age of 70; but for frequent users, that risk more than doubles, increasing to 4.05%. These risks are more substantial among Black women, who make up the overwhelming majority of users of hair straightening and hair relaxing products.
Studies have also shown a link between increased breast cancer risk and adolescent use of hair products that modify hair texture, specifically hair straighteners, perms, and hair dye in Black women in the U.S. The frequency of use is associated with a higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer. A number of studies demonstrate an 18% to 45% increased risk of breast cancer among Black women using hair relaxers.
Uterine fibroids are a common type of noncancerous tumor that can grow in and on the uterus. Fibroids may cause symptoms that can include heavy menstrual bleeding, back pain, frequent urination, and pain during sex. A new study from the American Journal of Epidemiology further confirms a link between EDCs in hair relaxers and the development of uterine fibroids. In the study of 23,000 menstruating Black American women, participants displayed two to three times higher uterine fibroid incidences.
Endometriosis is a disease in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. It can cause severe pain in the pelvis and make it harder to get pregnant. Endometriosis is also associated with EDCs found in hair care products and is one of the common indications for major gynecological surgery and hysterectomy among Black women in the United States. It is estimated that 20% to 50% of women being treated for infertility have endometriosis.
Our team of skilled attorneys led by Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmermann, who was appointed as plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel by the federal court overseeing this litigation, represents thousands of victims exposed to hair relaxers who now have uterine cancer. DiCello Levitt seeks to hold the manufacturers of these products accountable by compelling them to pay their victims billions of dollars.